Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mezzo Cammin, a print and a poem

It has been a beautiful day, one that has torn me between wanting to walk outside, and wanting to get some reading and painting done inside.  I've done some of each, though not as much as I hoped.  The image here began its life this afternoon as a leaf print from the venerable grape ivy that hangs in our enclosed porch. For years I pruned it back, but the last year or so I've been curious to see how big it will grow.  Anyway, I made a leaf print in my Moleskine, then added some transparent watercolor.  I scanned that, then used the cutout filter on Photoshop Elements to simplify the image.  The results are interesting enough to me so that I plan a little series, manipulated leaf prints paired with a poem.

This week I'v been slowly reading poems from American Sonnets: An Anthology, edited by David Bromwich.  Some sonnets were familiar to me, but most were not.  This Longfellow poem probably would not have spoken to me when I was younger, but his sense of mortality here is strong.  It is interesting that the poem says that his inability to reach youthful aspirations was the result of cares and sorrows, rather than of distractions.  Writers, counselors, those who try to help artists of various sorts to reach their goals, talk about being too self-critical, or about distractions, but they rarely speak of sadness or worry as interfering with the creative process.  Longfellow appears here to still have hope for the last years of his writing life, so the poem ends on a positive note.  I think I'll go upstairs and paint.

Mezzo Cammin

Half of my life is gone, and I have let
The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
The aspiration of my youth, to build
Some tower of song with lofty parapet.
Not indulgence, nor pleasure, nor the fret
Of restless passions that would not be stilled,
But sorrow and care that almost killed,
Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;
Though, halfway up the hill, I see the Past
Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights, --
A city in the twilight dim and vast,
With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights, --
And hear above me on the autumnal blast
The cataract of Death far thundering from the

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